Are You an Undercover Brother?

About a year ago I adopted something that I hold near and dear to my heart. When meeting, greeting, or saying goodbye to another firefighter I call them “Brother”. Prior to that it was “buddy”, “bud”, their first name, last name, or nickname. There are several reasons for this:

  1. I may or may not know or remember their name
  2. To me it shows respect
  3. I may think they are a firefighter but am not sure
  4. I might also use it for Police Officers and EMT’s

Most importantly, I use it because I mean it. I want them to realize that we are brothers because we are firefighters. It might remind them of the brotherhood, and it certainly reminds me. Like I said, I hold it near and dear to my heart and I mean it when I say it.

I admit that I have not used the reference “Sister” in place of “Brother” when speaking with a female firefighter yet. It still seems a little weird, but I also haven’t had that many opportunities either. I really think it might throw some of the ladies off a bit, but it is worth a try.

Small things like this mean a lot to me. I care about others and am enthralled by our firefighting heritage…the history, traditions, nuances, and technological advances. I am in it for life. If I can do a small part to make it better or increase awareness of our dying heritage then I have done something.

I have spoke about the Brotherhood before. I find it most unfortunate that so many feel the need to educate others and others need educating. I don’t blame anyone for the education, but it shouldn’t be necessary even though it means different things to different people. I guess the silver lining is that there are still some who want to learn, yet haven’t been educated yet.

Willie and I were talking the other night at our IAFF Local annual banquet about how things could be and should be so much better in our Local. Willie was edged out of his Vice President spot by someone who I don’t think should be in it. Trust me, Willie is better off not being the VP. You want to know who the losers are…our members. Willie was not a great VP, but he was the best VP in the conditions we have. The most interesting thing about it is that nothing will change. Willie will continue doing everything he was doing as a VP even though he isn’t one. Do you know why? Because it is who he is and what he does. I am similar. I was ousted as Secretary/Treasurer a number of years ago. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. Who were the losers? You guessed it. I still participate. I have been to most functions I have known about and have fully supported my local…the problem is that I am behind the tape. I am undercover. What I do isn’t seen by many. What I do isn’t noticed or mentioned. Willie is similar. Call it Stealth mode… Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have a telephone booth to change in or anything like that. We don’t do anything anyone else can’t do…we do what others won’t do typically. We do what we are asked to do. There are still a handful of guys in the Local who get it. They know who to call when they need help. The actual network of guys who get the job done within our Local are few and far between.

It is unfortunate. I will remain a loyal member. At one time, I was interested in getting involved in our State Association and possibly the IAFF down the road. It wasn’t meant to be.

The point here is that you don’t have to be an officer in your organization (career or volunteer) to make a difference. Just take the time to do something. Trust me, if everyone spent several hours a year helping out with one event or another everything would be peachy.

In my years when I was very involved I got to meet guys across Virginia and beyond who had devoted a large portion of their time to making things better. They were committed to making things better locally, Statewide, and Nationally. Those guys are amazing.

You want to know why they are amazing? Because of what they accomplish and because of all the shit they put up with. I cringe when I hear a firefighter ask what THEIR organization is doing for them. Organizations like IAFF Locals are only as strong as their weakest member. Think about that. If everyone pitched in and got involved just a little bit, they would be able to accomplish so much more.

In my City, we are looking at a huge reform in our pension system. We are going to get a 6% raise, however 5% of that is going to go to our pension. Our first raise in 4 years, and most of it is to supplement our pension with our own money. Do you know why? Simply because everyone else is doing it, why should our City be any different?

That is the reason our City leaders explained we are reforming our pension system.


Not because we HAVE to. Not because we NEED to. Simply to conform to other systems which are failing. How is that for a nice kick in the balls?

What are our members doing about it? Nothing. They will just roll over and take it like they usually do.

There have been some good times though. We have packed City Council meetings. Some have been positive, some negative. I just haven’t seen a group of people turn tail and run quicker than ours. So what if they lied to us? So what if we didn’t win this battle? We don’t go home and cry…we regroup, plan another strategy and implement our new plan.

We have to make them say no to us. They have to be educated on what we think, what we demand, and why we are who we are.

I have been asked by a dozen of my peers to run for our IAFF Local President position. Are they sick? If you knew the history, you would know why that is such a terrible thing to ask me to do. Plus, I have moved on to bigger and better things. Don’t get me wrong, I still support the local. I go to everything I can, which is more than most can say about what they do.

My vision is bigger. I realized I could do more good on a more National/International level and went for it. My own department doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that they have two of the biggest fire service bloggers working for them. My blog and Willie’s blog are easily in the top 10 fire blogs. If I were a Chief and had that kind of exposure I would capitalize on it!

Like I tell Willie from time to time, I feel like the Rodney Dangerfield of the fire department sometimes. It doesn’t bother me though. I get plenty of enjoyment from what I stand for and and what I have accomplished.

There are so many guys/gals like me who assist with accomplishments for the greater good of a department or organization and do not rely on even a pat on the back to feel good about we are doing. Those of us are “undercover brothers”…

I realize this post is all over the place, kind of many thoughts rolled into one. I think that the ones who this post is about will understand it.